Revival tough with old failures in mix

By Uri Dromi, September 15, 2011

I served under Rabin and Peres when Labour was in power, between 1992-96, still mustering more than 40 seats in the Knesset.

Then the long decline started. The party lost its direction, its soul, its constituency. Rabin, who believed that the ideological settlements in Judea and Samaria were a danger to Israel, was assassinated. Ehud Barak was kicked out of power in record time.

Come summer of 2011, and the Labour Party, which has been officially declared a dead horse, seems to have been resurrected. The young people who took to the streets of Israel, driven by years of social frustration, are now pushing for a political voice, and Labour is there to embrace them.

The protests have not rejuvenated the Labour leadership, though. Old hands have reappeared, like Amram Mitzna, who has failed as party chairman in the past, and Amir Peretz, who, devoid of security experience, made the colossal mistake of taking the Defence Ministry and was accused of making a mess of the Second Lebanon War. Maybe this has to do with MidEast or, rather, Mediterranean political culture, where one word is missing from the vocabulary: accountability.

I wish the same truck which came to 10 Downing Street to collect John Major's things the day after he lost the elections would appear in Israel to carry our failed politicians off to oblivion. Is that too much to ask for? Not sure. According to recent polls, with Shelly Yachimovich as leader, Labour can harvest 22 seats in the Knesset, far more than Peretz.

Can Labour once again become a major political power? Not so fast, because security issues, which have always been paramount, are now becoming even more pressing than ever. Yet the social protest will not go away. Labour's task will be to keep the social part of the national agenda, even in times of emergencies.

In order to do so, Labour has first to get its act together. Rivalries at the top, like the bad blood between Peretz and Yachimovich, is a tradition in the party - Rabin and Peres hated each other with passion. However, today's two will have to learn to work with each other, otherwise Labour's revival will be short-lived.

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem

Last updated: 1:41pm, September 15 2011